The US military wants to transform human soldiers into Terminator-style warriors by 2050, but experts warn of the ‘legal and ethical quandaries’ when creating cyborgs.
In a recent report, the Combat Capabilities Development Command noted that limbs could be enhanced to increase strength, eyes implemented with infrared and ultraviolet vision and technology could create subsonic hearing.
However, experts question if humanity is ready for such advances and raises concerns about what happens to these service members once they start a life as a civilian.
Peter Emanuel, a researcher for the US army and lead author of a year-long Department of Defense (DoD) study told Ryan Pickrell with Business Insider: ‘In the next 30 years, you’re going to need to have to deal with these legal and ethical quandaries, and you’re not ready for it.’
‘When you talk about somebody who lost their sight because of a bomb blast or somebody who lost their limb to an IED, it makes sense people would have fewer ethical qualms about giving them something that would replace that functionality.’
The military wants to transform soldiers into cyborg warriors by 2050, but experts question if humanity is ready for such advances and raises concerns about what happens to these service members once they start a life as a civilian
The term ‘cyborg’ was first coined in a NASA study on the long-term impact of space study by Manfred Clynes and Nathan Cline.
The word is a portmanteau formed from cybernetic organism and is an organism that has been optimised by creating interactions between flesh and machine.
And although injured service members are given technology, such as prosthetic limbs or implants, Emanuel said this is a completely different ball game than compared to ‘giving them super speed’.
He also questions what role cyborgs would serve in the military and how they would mix with not enhanced soldiers.
In a recent report, the Combat Capabilities Development Command noted that limbs could be enhanced to increase strength, eyes implemented with infrared and ultraviolet vision and technology could create subsonic hearing
‘You’re going to have mixed populations of soldiers that are not enhanced and soldiers that are enhanced,’ said Emanuel.
What does that mean? Is that going to have an impact to morale and camaraderie? Are [enhanced soldiers] going to be coveted assets?’
Authors of the Combat Capabilities Development Command report suggest that a lot of work would need to be done on changing ‘hearts and minds’ to make people more receptive of adapted soldiers, especially after they return to civilian life.
Experts warn humanity may not be ready for Terminator-style soldiers
They say that an individual re-entering civilian life with enhanced abilities would have a defined competitive advantage over non-enhanced individuals.
The team questioned whether soldiers with enhancements should be ‘throttled’ back to a normal level when entering society and if so what normal levels should be.
‘Now he wants to go to the Bellagio [Hotel Las Vegas] and go to the crap tables and he’s a supercomputer. Or, now this person is back and they’re stigmatized,’ Emanuel said.
‘What if the soldier wants to travel and it’s like, wow, you’re a military asset? What if now he wants to go to tour through Russia or some other adversarial area. Now, we’re concerned about somebody getting access to that particular piece of hardware.’
One participant in the study said: ‘If I can’t walk into a sensitive compartmented information facility wearing an iWatch or carrying a cellphone, how will security be confident it is safe to allow a cyborg to walk in there?’
This was just a thought experiment and we are unlikely to see an ‘enhanced soldier’ with all of these changes by 2050, however there is some suggestion in the report that part, if not all of the technologies could be fairly common within 30 years
WHAT IS BIOHACKING?
Biohackers, or grinders, are people who hack their own bodies with do-it-yourself devices.
They practice body modification in an effort to extend and improve human capabilities.
They usually turn to body modification experts like piercing artists to perform the implant procedures – but many do it themselves too.
One of the first biohackers was Kevin Warwick, an engineer and the Vice-Chancellor at Coventry University who had an RFID (Radio-Frequency Identification) chip implanted into his arm which allowed him to control devices such as lights by simply snapping his fingers.
Professor Kevin Warwick undertook a ground-breaking experiment with an implanted computer chip in his arm. Professor Warwick became the first human cyborg by implanting a computer chip in his arm to control machines with signals from his brain
A Utah based biohacker named Rich Lee has six implants; one in each ear that serve as headphones, two magnets in two different fingertips for feeling magnetic fields, an NFC (Near Field Communication) chip in his hand for controlling devices and a bio-therm chip in his forearm for monitoring temperature.
The first implant was a finger magnet, which he got because ‘the thought of being able to feel an invisible force and gain a new sense was too intriguing to pass up.’
He explains that he used to have implants in his shins to see how well they would protect his bones from impact.
While a few of the implants were done himself, most were carried out by body modification experts such as piercing artists.
Rich Lee receiving an implant in his hand. He usually asks body modification artists to do the procedures for him, but he’s done a few on himself when he thinks the risk is extremely limited